…when the one person whose forgiveness you need the most will never deign to treat you with humanity?
God knows, the older I get, the darker the future gets. And my mind insists on turning a judging eye at my past, at all of it.
I’ve tried to make peace with my past; apologizing to those I had wronged, and because of my temper, because of my heightened sense of righteous indignation, rebuked those who wronged me.
But even then, how much damage to myself have I done? I’ve always had strong, passionate emotions; always been governed by them. Neurodivergent, I believe is the current popular term for people like me who just can’t fit in with society’s expectations of “normal.”
God knows I grew up in a less understanding era; laughed at for being different throughout my youth, bullied for being the only English-speaking kid in a French Quebec grade school, traumatized by my father at home, and put through all the hell that the Other is put through in high school, college, and, life.
I’m no innocent; I’ve learned how to hurt people the most intimately, how to use their secrets as ammunition, how to manipulate people…when life teaches you cruelty, you learn to be cruel.
But through all my life, all I have done is searched out kindness; all I ever wanted when I was a kid was to be accepted. All I ever wanted was to be surrounded by people I could love, and more importantly, trust.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve failed people’s trust; or the number of times my trust in others was misplaced.
But nobody made these choices for me. Nobody else took the actions I took. No one else fucked up my life but me. Oh, some people are certainly as guilty as I am in the destruction of old Steve, some even relished it. But, it was all me, in the end.
All the apologizing and making peace with the past can only heal so much, only resolve so much. There are some mistakes I’ve made I’ll always regret, always rebuke myself for. A small but not insignificant number of people deserved – and some even still deserve better than I can give, or that I have given.
I do my goddamned best to survive, to help provide for my kids, but poverty-level income doesn’t do much to help, nor does racist French-Quebec Language laws and business culture.
I’m trying to be better, do better, but all I seem to do is keep fucking up, or worse, not making any progress at all.
Ultimately, I’m going through all of this alone. Nothing could change that, really; but maybe if I’d have made better choices, what I’d be going through might not be so bad.
What’s this got to do with They Came in Peace? Not a hell of a lot. But what’s that book got to do with anything other than chronicling the same inner demons I’m still grappling with today? My vain fucking hope I could turn a buck selling a story.
They always tell you to pursue your dreams; ask out the pretty girl; reach for the brass ring; take a leap of faith.
They don’t tell you that odds are you’ll give up on your dreams. And if you don’t, odds are you’ll live a life of misery and drudgery, because your dream is either unattainable or you fucked up along the way.
The pretty girl can always do better than you; and that brass ring is so smooth that even if you grab it, hang on for your fucking life because if you let go, you will fall.
I’ve spent my life quixotically; tilting at windmills like a fool, and now I’m just an old fucking fool living with ghosts and regrets, alone, and tired.
All I can do is keep trying, but what they never, ever tell you is how hard it is to keep reaching and falling; that even the most resilient material can be shattered; that eventually you just run out of strength. At some point, you just stop; there’s nowhere else to go, nothing left to do, no new tales to tell and no new tricks to try. Eventually, you settle.
…but I have worked at it.
Almost a month to the day after I turned 50, They Came in Peace will be launched; a story about a young man growing up after the world ended, after the aliens made themselves Custodians of the Earth, and the treachery and truth he uncovers. And even then, it’s not what you think it is.
But since finishing the review of the Galley on my fucking Birthday, since realizing how much of my blood was in the book and realizing I had too much red in my own ledger, I started on another project.
Not a creative one; a personal one. Triggered, ironically, by the unsolicited email from a former “friend,” who, shall we say, had been nothing but a hanger-on, a condescending manipulator who could only drag me down with him, since 1984. He emailed me to tell me he still cared, and still followed me, online; I told him with no lack of colorful language just what I thought of him, and the fact that if he’d cared and followed me online, he’d have contacted me after my mother died last year, the day after my eldest turned 10.
But I realized that the past was full of loose ends…and after working up the courage, I decided it was time that I did what my former bestie could not: reach out to anyone, everyone I can find, who I may have hurt, or otherwise been a bastard to, and try to apologize for the asshole that I was…
Other than one person, I’ve been met with nothing but kindness. Oh, one or two people never did more than read my messages asking for forgiveness, but I can understand why they may not have wished-or been able to-answer me back.
But everyone – almost – else, were sympathetic, and remembered me more fondly than I did, myself. A couple even told me not to be so hard on myself.
…annnd then I was made privy to the commentary another former friend who DID follow me online about my Birthday Blogging Binge at the end of May.
Backstory is, I’d apologized to someone who was a mutual friend of me and the Other One, who passed me a copy of their (the Other One’s) commentary on my posts.
I can honestly say, even my ex-wife – who had actual reason to be – was not nearly as haughty, arrogant, judgmental and self-aggrandizing as the Other One was. In fact, of all the people from my past who treat me with more kindness than I deserve, my ex wife is probably the kindest.
Now, getting back to the Other One, I’ve seen a lot of people whitewash and romanticize themselves or their past – or our shared past, if we have one – but up until the Other One, I’ve never seen someone redact the past until nothing but their own self-put-upon marble plinth remained beneath their feet, everything and everyone else just disdainful in their eyes..
Now, to all the people who insist I’m good, that I’m kind, that I’m not the villain of my own piece, let me just say I used every cruel word and bit of knowledge I had about the Other One to absolutely shred them for what they had to say about me. Like, I made cole slaw out of their ass.
And I regret nothing.
But, as I’ve said elsewhen: I’ve lived 50 years, not all of them good. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and now is the time to put them right.
I’m still trying to atone for my past, with as many people as I can. There are some people I won’t reach out to, because I think it would do more harm than good if I did. There are others that, if I don’t at least TRY to talk to them, I’d never forgive myself.
I’ve been forgiven and told I was better than I thought by a handful of people who should remember me far less fondly; a precious few pebbles from the past – including a family member I never expected to answer me – and long-gone friends I thought would rebuke me, are bittersweet solace, as I remind myself that not everything can be tied off in a pretty bow.
Sometimes, the thread must be cut, completely.
I’m going to try and keep moving forwards; the former family and friends who have forgiven me and remember me more kindly than I do myself remind me I can try to be a better person, maybe even less of a bastard.
But the truth is, when you’ve made as many mistakes as I have, sometimes being a bastard is the only way to push through, to make that progress.
Sorry, loves; I’m not as good as you all imagine.
And if I am cruel to you…well, think of how much I hate myself, and think of how much I must therefore hate you.
Auf wiedersehen, meine schatzie.
How can I forgive the person who is singlehandedly responsible for everything that fucked up my life? Especially when that bastard’s me?